Campaign for the Fortification of Flour with Folic Acid

For many years, Shine has fought for the introduction of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.  Long standing research has shown increasing your folic acid intake prior to conception reduces the chances of a Neural Tube Defect (NTD) developing during pregnancy.

Whilst current guidelines recommend that women take a 400mcg dose of folic acid every day for at least three months before trying for a baby, recent statistics show that supplementation is failing to significantly reduce the number of pregnancies affected.  That is not to say it is not effective, but with approximately 40% of UK pregnancies found to be unplanned, it is often a case of ‘too little too late’ in terms of receiving the necessary advice and support.

We feel it is time for the government to act in light of new findings which have dispelled the previous idea that a ‘safe upper limit’ should be adhered to.

Some folic acid facts:

  • Folic acid has been proved to reduce the chance of pregnancy affected by NTD
  • It needs to be taken well before conception to work - supplements have not been successful.
  • Only 31% of women take the right dose at the right time, with many more not starting until they’re already pregnant, when it’s too late.
  • Around 75% of women of childbearing age have blood folate below the level which protects them best from developing an NTD during pregnancy
  • Men are often low in folate, not just women.
  • Many teenagers are clinically deficient in folate, risking their long term health
  • Low folate increases the risk of dementia, depression and anaemia
  • Folic acid may reduce death by strokes
  • USA and Canada have fortified for 20 years with reduction in NTD pregnancies by as many as 50% in some areas
  • 81 countries fortify common foods round the world.

What we've done so far...

02.05.2018

Shine launches the 'Fight for Fortification' campaign - a Parliamentary briefing, sponsored by Owen Smith MP (Labour) and Nigel Dodds MP (DUP) takes place at Westminster

16.05.2018

Owen Smith MP leads a Parliamentary Debate, with support from Nigel Dodds MP, Stewart McDonald (SNP), Jessica Morden MP (Lab), Jim Shannon MP (DUP) Lisa Cameron MP (SNP) and Sharon Hodgson MP (Lab). 

Informed evidence is presented to the Minister for Public Health, Steve Brine MP.  In response, Steve Brine states that he is keen to meet with Shine - a date is yet to be agreed. 

You can re-watch the debate online here

27.06.2018

An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on folic acid fortification is formed - MPs are subsequently invited to it's first formal meeting on 11th September 2018.

An Early Day Motion calling for the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid is tabled, and MPs encouraged to sign.

You can view the official Early Day Motion online here

11.09.2018

APPG meets, focusing on how living with spina bifida or losing a baby to anencephaly affects individuals and families, and why the Government has to act now to introduce mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid'. 

23.10.2018

Shine holds a drop in Q & A session in parliament.  An in-depth briefing document is issued to all serving MPs.

23.10.2018

Minister for Public Health Steve Brine MP announces that the government is to launch a formal consultation.  When asked by Stewart McDonald MP (SNP) whether the consultation will look at 'whether it should happen, or how it should happen' he replied "We will be taking evidence, including from the committee for toxicity, to look at the safe upper limit of folate levels which i'm particularly keen to get right, but i'm convinced that the evidence is overwhelming and that this is something which we should be doing"

You can view the Government's official announcement online here

25.10.2018

A second parliamentary debate is held in conjunction with World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Awareness Day, with MPs asking questions in order to better understand the detail of the consultation, and to raise specific points of emphasis.

You can view the debate online here

14.01.2019

The planned consultation, announced in October by Steve Brine, Minister for Public Health, has not yet launched.  Shine, and others, are keeping up the pressure to ensure that the consultation happens, and mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid remains high on the agenda.  
 
In a response to a letter from Shine's Chief Executive, the Minister told us:
 

"I am sorry I cannot give you a precise date for when the consultation will go live, but my Officials are working on the preparation of the necessary documentation and we hope to be in a position to launch it as soon as we have the necessary internal clearances to proceed.

Please be assured, I am very supportive of moving ahead with it as quickly as we can, but you will appreciate that this is a complex policy that attracts a significant amount of interest from many different stakeholders.

As such, we need to be sure that what we put out properly represents the policy intention and I need to demonstrate my responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duties. This consultation will allow all interested parties to consider the issue and make their representations.

Once we have considered the responses, we will be in an informed position to decide the best way forward."

Questions were also tabled at the House of Lords on Wednesday 9th January

It is clear from the responses that many remain ill-informed about folic acid and its importance.  Shine will therefore be contacting those who responded to questions in a quest to provide them with clear and correct information on the issue.
 
You can read a transcript of the discussion here
 

Coming up next...

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Folic Acid (APPG for Folic Acid) will join The All Party Parliamentary Forum for Food and Health in Westminster for a meeting to further our campaign, and we have again invited MPs and members of the House of Lords, as well as leading experts in the field to take part.

  

As a community, we need your support.

Members of Parliament

Help us reduce preventable deaths and life threatening birth defects by signing up to an Early Day Motion calling for the fortification of flour with folic acid. 

In the meantime, you can join the APPG which is scheduled to meet again in early 2019.

 

Shine members and supporters

We know from past experience that people power makes a difference.  Whilst Shine represent our membership as a whole, there is no substitute for real life stories and experiences - so to make sure yours are heard, we urge you to contact your local MP and encourage them to join the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mandatory Fortification of Flour With Folic Acid

You can find phone numbers, email and postal addresses for your local MP online here, or if you'd find it easier to contact them on social media, a list of all active MP Twitter accounts can be found here - be sure to use the hashtag #FlourPower and we'll make sure to share it too.

 



 
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